How to Properly Clean a Paddle Board

If you want your paddleboard to last as long as possible despite the season, then you need to learn how to properly clean it. Here's how we clean our boards!

So you’ve spent the summer enjoying the water on your paddle board. But now, summer is gone and it’s time to pack off the paddle board for the winter. It may seem easy to just throw your board into your garage or basement and return to it next year. 

However, leaving your board covered in the sand, dirt, and junk that collects on it when you use it can be hard on your board, especially if you have an inflatable paddle board.

If this is the first time you are packing up your paddle board for the winter, you’ll want to know how to properly clean it before putting it away. In this article, we’ll give you the information you need for cleaning your paddle board so that it’s ready to use for next summer.

What you need to clean your paddleboard

person holding brown soap bar in the hand
Image credits: Sincerely Media

Probably the best thing about cleaning your paddle board is that you don’t need to invest in a bunch of weird, expensive cleaning supplies or products. The two most important items that you will need are an outdoor water source with a hose and a gentle cleaning detergent. 

We would also recommend a soft cloth or sponge to remove dirt and grime, algae and the like from your board.

We like to use a basic dishwashing liquid. The same stuff you wash your pots and pans with, works great at cleaning your paddle board. And many basic dish soaps are also biodegradable.

If you do want to invest in a cleaning product that is made specifically for cleaning your paddle board, there are a number of options on the market. They are formulated to be gentle on the surface of your board while also being effective at removing mildew and scum. 

List of cleaners that you can use

Below is a list of the paddle board specific cleaners that are most popular with paddle boarders:

Star Brite Ultimate: Formulated with PTEF polymers that coat your paddle board with a layer of UV protectant, Star Brite is a great product. It easily removes dirt and scum and is really gentle on your board and your skin. You can also use this product on your kayak, canoe, or surfboard.

Revivex Pro: If you’re looking for something a little more versatile but don’t want to go with dish soap, the Revivex Pro Cleaner is a super option. It is actually designed to clean camping equipment like tents and sleeping bags. But because it is gentle enough for these products, it is perfectly suited for your paddle board. The other nice thing about this product is that you can use it for other things and you’re buying a product that you just use one per year.

Simple Green Marine: Simple Green is one of the best cleaning products on the market, and they now have a Marine formulation as well. We like the Simple Green Marine cleaner because it can be used on all sorts of paddle craft, not just your paddle board. It works really effectively at removing scum, dirt and saltwater residue. The best part of this cleaning product is that it is non-toxic, non-abrasive and biodegradable.

Blue Goo ONTIPRO: Blue Goo ONTIPRO is our pick for cleaning inflatable paddle boards. It, like other paddle board specific cleaners, is great at cleaning mildew, dirt and grime from your paddle board at the end of the season. It is also made to gently remove rust and oxidation which is really important for keeping your inflatable paddle board in good condition. It works well on hard boards too, but this product is ideal for inflatables that have more metal features.

Seventh Generation Dish Soap: This product deserves special mention, even though it is not a paddle board specific cleaner. You’ll hear of lots of paddlers using this product on their paddle boards, kayaks and canoes because it is inexpensive, gentle, easy to find and most importantly is biodegradable. You will need to do a good rinse after cleaning your paddle board with Seventh Generation Dish Soap.

OnIt Pro: This one is for your paddle board deck pad. You don’t want to use it on any other part of your paddle board. The product says it is safe for the rest of your board, but we prefer to keep it off of the surface of the board. This product works differently from soap. You apply it to the deck of your board and then add water. A bit of water “activates” the cleaner which then works by separating it from the deck surface.

Since most deck surfaces tend to be rougher than the rest of the board, this is really handy, because dirt, grime, sand, salt, and even sunscreen rinse right off, with no scrubbing necessary.

💡 Note: We’ve written an entire article on the 5 best biodegradable soaps for camping that can also be used to clean your paddleboard.

A few tips on using the cleaning products

  • Before you go smearing a cleaning product all over your board, you’ll want to do a spot test. Try the product on a small section of your board just to make sure that it doesn’t damage the surface.
  • If you’re just using a cleaning product like dish soap or Simple Green, you may want to invest in a protectant spray. These products will protect your board from UV rays and adds a bit of a seal to your board. They also seem to make cleaning your board at the end of the season a little easier.
  • Invest in a package of Magic Erasers without the scrubby surface. These cleaning sponges are amazing at removing scuffs from your board and also are gentle at removing difficult dirt and grime. They work really well and are non-abrasive, so they won’t damage your board.

How to clean a paddleboard step-by-step

inflatable paddleboard besides a normal paddleboard
Image credits: Marco Verch

Step 1: Rinse

Start by giving your board a good rinse with fresh water. This will remove any dirt, sand or salt that isn’t stuck hard to your board but could be abrasive and scratch your board surface when you’re cleaning the board. 

We think that it’s a good idea to rinse your board after every use especially if you’re spending time in salt water. Stuck on dirt, sand and salt can scratch the surface of your board and loosen the seams of inflatables. 

However, if you don’t find this necessary, make sure that before you start cleaning at the end of the season, you start with a good rinse.

Step 2: Clean

Start by reading the use instructions for the cleaner you’ve selected for your board. Some you can apply directly to the board; some will need to be diluted in water.

For cleaning your inflatable SUP, which is made of a more “delicate” material, we recommend a natural all-purpose product like the Seventh Generation dish soap. This product is very gentle on the PVC of your board. 

Once you’ve prepared your cleaner, apply it to the surface of your board and gently scrub with a soft cloth or sponge. Don’t use sponges with an abrasive side, this can scratch your board.

If you have an inflatable paddle board, you will want to make sure that you pay close attention to cleaning the inflation valve. Dirt and junk can build up inside this valve which can cause it to rust or corrode. And if this happens, you won’t be inflating your paddle board easily. Use a cotton swab with a bit of cleaning product on it to remove dirt and grime from inside the valve stem.

If you’ve got difficult dirt to remove, spots or scuffs, you may want to try a bit of Blue Goo or a Magic Eraser to gently scrub away the spots.

Step 3: Rinse again

When your board is perfectly cleaned, it’s time to rinse. You’ll want to rinse really well, so that you remove all of the soap residue from your board. 

Soap residues can make your board sticky, slippery, and can impact the ability for sealants and waxes to stick to your board.

Step 4: Dry

Drying your board is a good idea even if you’re just rinsing it off after a day on the water. It’s a good idea to make sure your board is as dry as possible when you’re getting it packed up, just because you don’t want to deal with trying to load a wet board in or on your car. 

To dry your board, you can use an old bath towel, or invest in some larger microfiber cloths. These are really soft and really absorbent. Even small hand-towel size microfiber cleaning cloths will do a great job of drying off your board.

If you’re drying your board but will use it again over a short period of time, you don’t have to be super thorough. However, if you’re getting ready to store your board for the winter, you’ll want to make sure that it is completely dry before putting it up for the season. 

Water left on your board, especially an inflatable paddle board, can grow mold and mildew which can weaken the board seams and damage the material.

Step 5: Apply protectant spray

This is a step that you probably only need to do one or two times per year. You certainly don’t need to do this after each use. It is a step that we recommend that you do before you store your board for the season, and then again mid-way through the summer.

Protectant sprays are designed to provide a thin layer of protection to the surface of the board. Most protectant sprays protect your board from UV rays that can damage the materials of your board over time. These sprays are also great at providing a surface that sand, salt and grime won’t stick to as easily.

Board protectant sprays are pretty easy to use, but as with cleaning products, make sure that you read the instructions before you use them. These products are great, but too much, can be just as bad for your board as never using one at all.

So there you have it. The simple, and easy process for cleaning your stand-up paddle board. It’s not a difficult process, but it will make a huge difference in the life of your board, and your ability to enjoy a great day on your favorite body of water.

How often should you clean a paddleboard? 

man holding white paddle board
Image credits: Malik Skydsgaard

The steps we listed above are an awful lot to do, every time you use your paddle board. So, a thorough cleaning is really only necessary a couple of times per year. We would recommend that if nothing else, you clean and apply a protectant spray before you put your board in storage for the winter.

Cleaning between uses is really up to you and the type of water that you’re using your board in. If you’re spending your time in fresh water sources, you can get away with just rinsing your board after each use, and then a good cleaning at the end of the season. If you skip a rinse every now and then, that won’t hurt your board if you’re only paddling in a clean water source.

If you’re using your paddle board in salt water, you’ll need to be sure to rinse it off really well after every use. Salt is corrosive and can damage the surface of your board, even over a short period of time. If the ocean is your normal paddling place, we would also recommend that you consider giving your board a thorough washing more than twice per year. 

And while keeping your board clean is a good practice to be in, you don’t want to over clean it either. Over scrubbing or using too many cleaning products can be as harmful to the surface of your board as not washing it enough.

Why should you clean your paddleboard?

Lots of people, new to paddle boarding, ask this question. It seems counterintuitive that you should have to clean an object that is made for being in the water. Well, here’s why you should…

First, storing your board dirty or wet can cause mold and mildew to grow on your board. These organisms can damage the surface of your board and shorten its life.

Second, if you’re in the ocean, salt is highly corrosive, and can damage your board even over a short period of time.

Third, especially if you are riding an inflatable paddle board, dirt and grime can get into the seams of your board and weaken them. This can shorten the life of your paddle board considerably. Here are some other reasons you should clean your board periodically.

To avoid damaging your board

Sometimes while out on your board you may run into objects like rocks, floating branches or even garbage. This combined with moving around your paddle board can damage your board, and you may not notice. Cleaning your board well a couple of times per year allows you to inspect it for damage. When caught early, nicks and small cracks on your board are easy to repair. But if you’re not cleaning your board or inspecting it closely from time to time, a small crack or nick can grow and cause irreparable damage to your board.

To avoid saltwater from causing corrosion

We’ve mentioned this a couple of times, but it’s worth mentioning it again. Saltwater is highly corrosive. Not just to the metal parts of your board, but even to the epoxy surface of your hardboard and the seams of your inflatable board. If you’re spending your days paddling the ocean, it is important to clean your board as often as possible, and if nothing else, make sure you rinse it really well at the end of each day.

To avoid mold and mildew

While salt is the enemy of boards in the ocean, paddle boards that are used in freshwater lakes have their own enemies. Lakes particularly have algae, slime, dirt and grime that can stick to your board. If you don’t wash your board periodically, these can turn to mold and mildew. Mold and mildew if not removed periodically can also damage your board.

To keep your air valve in good working order

If you’ve decided on an inflatable paddle board, cleaning it periodically will give you the opportunity to inspect the air valve. The valve should always be left in the locked and closed position, but even in this position, water and fine bits of sand and dirt can seep into the valve. Cleaning your paddle board periodically will remove this dirt and grime and keep your air valve in good working order.

Is there a difference between cleaning an inflatable paddleboard and an epoxy paddleboard?

woman laughing next to white and blue paddle board
Image credits: Reed Naliboff

In general, cleaning a hard board and cleaning an inflatable paddle board require the same basic process. 

However, if you are using an inflatable SUP, you will want to pay close attention to the air valve and other metal parts when cleaning. 

And since your inflatable paddle board can pack down into a storage bag, you’ll need to make sure it is completely dry before you pack it up and store it for the winter.

Final thoughts

Cleaning your paddle board is one of the most important skills you can learn when you are new to paddle boarding. 

Cleaning your board properly not only improves your enjoyment of your new paddle board, but it ensures that you’ll have many years of fun and enjoyment on this fun piece of paddling equipment.

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Jason Gass

When I'm not working, I spend most of my time camping, hiking, and road-tripping with my wife, my daughter, and my two dogs.